Silverback KirungiThe silverbacks and blackbacks of Nkuringo group in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park keep the Gorilla Doctors on their toes with their near constant fighting, which frequently leads to one or more individual being injured—sometimes quite seriously. In 2011, the adult female Samehe died after sustaining a severe a head wound in a fight between males. This year, Kirungi, the third-ranking silverback in the group, has borne the brunt of the beat downs and suffered numerous deep cuts and lacerations. While none of these wounds have been immediately life threatening, Ugandan Field Veterinarians Drs. Hameed and Fred have followed him closely, prepared to act should his wounds become infected.

Early in June, Kirungi received another deep bite wound on his hip that became septic. Dr. Hameed and Dr. Fred report on what happened:

Kirungi rests on the forest floor after being wounded.From Dr. Hameed: On June 8, we received word from the Bwindi Conservation Area Manager’s office that there had been a fight in Nkuringo group that had left Kirungi with a deep wound on his right hip. The fight most likely involved the dominant silverback Safari who also sustained a minor cut on his forehead. I tracked Nkuringo group and found that the wound was about 4 days old and was healing. Kirungi was feeding and had a ¾ full stomach. He had good use of his hind limbs.

On June 11, we were informed by the Warden in charge of Nkuringo subsector that Kirungi’s wound was septic (infected) and he was not feeding or keeping up with the rest of the group.

Kirungi’s woundThe next day, Dr. Benard, Dr. Racheal, and I tracked the Nkuringo group along with two UWA rangers. The gorillas were still by their night nests. We found Kirungi feeding. The deep longitudinal cut across his right gluteal region was progressively healing. He moved in tune with the rest of the group. 

Kirungi was alert and exhibited only slight discomfort when bearing weight on his left hind limb. He sat down on his right hand side showing probable progression of the healing process. Nevertheless, we darted him with 4 ml of the antibiotic Ceftiofur and made plans for Dr. Fred to check on him in two days.

Kirungi after being darted.From Dr. Fred: I went to Nkuringo on June 13 to check on Kirungi. He was with the group near Safari and moved as the group moved. He was feeding on Mimulopsis arborescens pith and Pilea holstii leaves on our arrival. He ate actively and his stomach was full. I took time enough to see the wound on his right thigh. The wound affected his moving speed but not his feeding. It was open but pinkish in color and had no signs of infection. The limb was not swollen but he moved with some limping. He was not lethargic. Rangers will continue to monitor Kirungi, but he seems to be on the mend.

You can follow the Gorilla Doctors health monitoring efforts on our Facebook page, where we post photos and notes from our monthly visits.

Please consider supporting MGVP by making a secure online donation. Every dollar you give goes to directly supporting our gorilla health programs and One Health initiative. Thank you for your generosity.